Fun weekend at Mariucci, wasn’t it? A few thoughts:
….Good crowds both nights – I attended as a rube on Friday and for GPL on Saturday. Seemed to be a lot more North Dakota fans at the game tonight; maybe it was because of their lack of chances on Friday vs. Saturday. Who knows, just a thought from being down low in the crowd as opposed to up high in the press box.
….A lot of good things came out of this weekend for sure. I want to make sure to address Kent Patterson first, as I didn’t mention him more than once in the recap. He was awesome in a couple of ways. First, he made a couple of great saves – especially the one on Brock Nelson just after Nick Larson tied it up in the third. Yeah – Ben Blood didn’t make the best move and Kent telegraphed it, but wow he moved quickly and got the pad out to – really – save the game. Plus, he went through large periods where he didn’t have to face much in the way of shots. He’s clearly on top of his game…and the more he plays like this the more I’m convinced he’ll play just about every minute of every game this year.
....Kyle Rau, true freshman. 8 goals, 4 game winners. Can't wait to see him in March.
….Not that I want to address anything North Dakota related….but after thinking about it all weekend and then reflecting a bit on my last point on Patterson – the only word I can think of when it comes to North Dakota right now is…impotent. They are no different than any other team, as they’ll have years where their offense is not as good as other years, etc. But this team is frighteningly awful when they have the puck. They are basically a pure dump and chase team right now. They had a two-on-one in the third period with a chance to go up by two goals and it appeared as though that kind of a chance never happened to them before. Rocco Grimaldi is a college star in the making – at least he appears to have those types of skills – but aside from him and Danny Kristo (who seemed to be more than a bit off this weekend) they don’t have much going. They’ll be fine as a team and I’m sure they’ll get things going – as they are very well coached/prepared defensively, but as of right now they have some serious holes to plug up front that could take awhile to rebuild.
....The Gophers were decent at face-offs. Perhaps even better than decent as Corban Knight was only at 56% for the game, which I believe is off his pace as probably the best face-off guy in the country. Bjugstad took a lot of draws and was just one under 50%. Haula needs to really improve and I’ll just leave it at that.
….Nick Larson made a good point when comparing Friday to Saturday. He thought the two teams “got it out of their system” on Friday night and just played hockey on Saturday. There were only a few scrums…this seemed more like a tight regular season game between two non-rivals for the most part.
....Nico Sachetti not playing. Unless someone gets hurt or a streak goes the wrong way....
….Second point on the crowd; they were awesome both nights – great to see the student section full and in synch with each other. The rest of the crowd was just another reminder that when the team starts putting together winning seasons (like this one is steamrolling towards) that it gets really loud in here and can be a major advantage for the Gophers.
….Not sure what the story was with North Dakota after the game. We usually get to talk with visiting coaches first before Coach Lucia and players. Hakstol didn’t come out that I noticed, and by the time we talked with Lucia, Larson and Rau, they were basically all packed up and gone. Hmmmm.
….Going into the weekend I thought the two biggest players on the Gophers that needed to step up were Budish and Ambroz. Budish did a nice job tonight, getting a couple of points. Ambroz still has a ways to go. He did gather a rebound in the second period and got a good shot off and was robbed by Dell; but so far he seems a bit confused out there. Not sure if he should be hitting people or getting in front of the net to create havoc there. He’s got time to improve and he’s just a freshman, so I’ll leave it alone. Something to keep an eye on though as I think he’s behind some other guys right now.
Good to get two wins, good to get a sweep against your biggest rival. I was fired up like most fans right after the game. But Lucia’s calmer type of presence (he’s paid to be that guy I suppose) settled me down a bit. It’s a big sweep – no doubt – but bigger and better things should be around the corner. Bucky has been a weird team this season, very bad on the road while much better at home. Another big challenge but one I think they Gophers can and should take some points out of.
Alright, gotta pack up and get home. Until next time....